The Best Blackjack Strategies that Pros Won’t Tell You
The Best Blackjack Strategies that Pros Won’t Tell You
I have written this article assuming that you guys know how to play blackjack and that you are just here looking for ways to take down the house. I have put together some of the best blackjack strategies or what you could call a “cheat sheet” that tells you almost everything that you need to keep in mind when you play. It will increase your odds at winning. Some of them are just mathematical tricks that will help you a great deal.
This is important as blackjack is a game that relies more on your skill than on luck.
Start Little by Little
I know it can be very exciting to go to a casino and start betting big cos you are there to win big. But remember that you can lose just as much as you can win. This is something I learnt the hard way. I used to think that it was best to bet big to win big.
However, it is always better to start with a very small amount, even the minimum bet allowed. This ensures that you are not affected much even if you lose. So your head is not focusing on what’ll happen if you lose but is rather confident and cool and more focused on winning.
So it’s very important that you bet only the money that you would be okay with losing. And this applies to all casino games. Do not bet huge amounts that will cause your life to get disrupted if you lose. A player who is not worried about losing, thinks clearly.
And even though it is customary to drink while playing Blackjack, it would help if you kept it very much under control to help with the thinking clearly part. So don’t go order that “Dry Martini, shaken not stirred” and pretend to be Bond in Casino Royale.
So relax and play as casually as the dealer does. And NEVER chase your losses. Let bygones be bygones!
Which is the Right Table for you?
In a land based casino, there are many tables that are available for you to join. Similarly, in an online casino, there are many variants of blackjack with varying rules that you can choose to play.
And naturally, you would want to choose the table with the most munificent rules.
- The winner gets 3:2 payouts. Avoid tables that pay 6:5 or even money.
- The fewer the decks the better. One or two decks are ideal.
- Dealer stands on a soft 17.
- You are allowed to double after a split.
- Players can also double down on any two cards.
- You can re-split Aces.
- The minimum bet that they allow should not be too hard on your pocket.
The first rule is the most important. The number of decks matter only if the payout is 3:2. And if the payout is 3:2 and there are 1 or 2 decks in play (fewer decks allow you to keep track of the cards that have been dealt), every other rule is of varying importance. It all depends mostly on your playing style. But what the casino pays is by far the most important.
You will most likely not find a table that is going to satisfy all these rules, so you should settle for a table with the most important ones. And last but not least, always choose a full table. This will ensure that you play fewer hands per hour than you would at a solo table which in turn means that you will lose less.
Would you sit at a table that plays with just one deck but pays 6:5? If you answered no, you have understood this strategy. It is better to play a blackjack game that pays 3:2 with 8 decks.
What is Basic Strategy?
Masterminds have been observing the game of blackjack for decades before coming up with the “basic strategy”. It is a strategy that tells you the mathematically correct way to play any hand against any dealer face-up card. You can learn when to hit, stand, split and double. Over time, you will be able to decrease the house edge in your favour.
And don’t forget that the basic strategy only works when your Blackjack game is played according to certain rules:
- Dealer stands on a soft 17
- You play with few decks. No more than 8.
- Players are allowed to double down on any hand.
- And double down after a split.
- Players are allowed to re-split 3 to 4 times.
- Players can surrender.
The strategy is like a table as you can see, which on the left, has all the possible player card totals and has all the corresponding dealer face-up cards on the top. All you have to do is to match your card total to the corresponding dealer card in the shape of an inverted L and you will land on your “action”. It is just like plotting a point on a graph with x and y coordinates. I told you some of these strategies were mathematical.
When the dealer’s up card is a 10 and you have a soft 18 (Ace and a 7), most players would think that it would be smart to stand, while the basic strategy asks you to hit it. And it is wise to trust the path led by mathematics.
Any good blackjack player should memorise this strategy. Cos with this, you can cut the house edge to 0.25% under good rules. However, you cannot win with just this strategy in the long run. But if you consider the compensations and tournament invites and other offers that the casino gives you like they do with Video Poker, you can probably outrun the casino at some point with basic strategy.
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First of all, I’m going to address a couple of elephants in the room. Counting cards is absolutely legal! So if you are scared that the goons at the casino will round you up and beat the shit out of you like a bunch of MIT students, you are fortunately wrong.
And now to the next elephant. Can only MIT students count cards? Do you have to be that smart? The answer is no. You don’t even need a great memory. All you need is the concentration and the mathematical skills to keep counting!
Card counting works most of the time. It is based on the principle that your odds of winning or losing are determined based on the nature of the cards left to be dealt in the shoe. If the cards left are rich in aces and 10s, your odds of winning are higher than when the cards left are rich in lower numbers (2 to 6). So it’s good to hit less and double more if you see that there will be more 10s and aces coming.
This is the most common method of card counting that experienced card counters stand by. This involves assigning a number to a set of cards.
|Cards dealt||Card range||Assigned number|
|Cards from 2 to 6||Low||+1|
|Cards 7,8 and 9||Neutral||0|
|Cards 10 and above||High||-1|
All the cards that you would be dealt at a blackjack table will fall under one of these 3 categories (Low, Neutral or High). And you just have to remember that assigned numbers for these cards and keep adding and subtracting as necessary based on the cards dealt.
Let’s consider these cards:
|Cards Dealt||Assigned Number||Total|
So your running total right now is -3 which is also known as your end count if there are no more cards to be dealt. And remember that high low always ends in ZERO. So you need +3 to make it 0. Which means that there are more low cards to come. 🙁
Tough luck but at least you know cos you’ve been counting them.
To win the casino by counting cards, it is mandatory that you know the optimal basic blackjack strategy. Cos the two will work hand in hand to make you a Blackjack King! Or Blackjack Queen! We are all feminists here.
Carrying a Strategy card?
You should know that almost all land-based casinos allow this. Some even sell strategy cards to players or give them for free when you buy your chips! And if you are playing online, it doesn’t matter where you have your strategy – head or paper. But most players worry that them being seen with a strategy card would imply that they are inexperienced players.
This should not be the only reason you refuse to refer to your strategy card while playing. Who cares what others think as long as your card is helping you win? And with so many variants of blackjack these days, there are so many strategy cards and everyone knows that it can be confusing. So don’t hesitate to carry one on your next trip to the casino. And it’s completely legal!
Is it wise to insure?
While taking insurance on everything in your life is a smart bet, it sadly is not when it comes to your casino games like Blackjack. Insuring your bet is a sucky move and so, don’t make it. Unless you’ve been counting cards and are sure that there are more remaining cards with 10s and Aces.
If you are here after reading about black in-depth or something that asks you to insure your bet when the dealer’s up card is an Ace or a 10, this is for you. The house has a 7.7% edge in an insurance bet. And that is an awful lot. If you win, you only win your initial bet back and if the dealer wins, you neither win nor lose. You can see that it is still a lousy bet. Always try to get the 3:2 payout. Always.
Where to sit?
While you cannot choose where you want to sit on online blackjack games, you sure can at a land-based casino. You always want to sit at a full table like I already told you. This means that you get fewer hands which means lesser losses per hour!
And as far as which player position you choose to play is concerned, you tell me if it matters. It is usually said that the first base seat is the worst to sit in as this player never has time to ponder over what he wants to do. By this logic, the player seated last always has more time to think.
But does that mean that this player has more chances of winning? Nope. Although this is true in terms of how much time each player gets to decide on an action, this doesn’t really matter to experienced players.
Player Chit Chat
Players are known to chat with each other. More so at the blackjack table than the poker table. Lol. And this happens even in online casinos where providers allow player to player interaction in live casino games.
But you should be sitting with your eyes on the prize and do not take any advice from other players. Even though this game is not player vs. player, it is still advisable to make your own decisions. I know this does not really seem like “strategy” but it is very hard to stay focused amidst such player banter, especially if you are a beginner.
Manual Shuffling or the Continuous Shuffler?
A continuous shuffling machine was invented to save the dealer’s time in shuffling cards. After the dealer has dealt around, he or she will collect all the cards and put them in the shuffler. There are usually 5 decks of cards in the shuffling machine at a time.
You would be wise to not choose a table with a continuous shuffler. They shuffle cards after each round. And this results in more hands being dealt per hour which means you are at a risk to lose more money.
I was wondering why using a continuous shuffler would result in more hands being played. And the reason is simple, the dealer is not wasting his time shuffling cards and so, ends up dealing out more cards instead.
You can play at tables that use a mechanical shuffler where the cards are shuffled after 50% to 75% of them have been played. It is also advisable to play at tables where the dealers manually shuffle the cards for the same reason mentioned above.
The Martingale System?
The Martingale system operates on progressive betting. According to the Progressive Betting System, every time you lose a bet, you double that amount as your next bet. To what end, you ask? Until you win. Let’s consider an example:
This betting system relies on the sole belief that you will win EVENTUALLY. So like this example when you win $64, you have made up for all your losses by $2.
$2 + $4 + $8 + $16 + $32 = $62. So this believes that when you eventually win, you will definitely make up for your net losses.
Although this is true, you never know when you will eventually win. You may not have enough to see that win! And since we all have a budget in the real world, if we don’t win before we run out of money to bet, we are done for. That is the only reason you can’t always rely on this progressive betting system.
And various computer simulations have shown us that such betting systems do not survive in the long run against the house. Cos sadly, “The house always wins.”
To know about the blackjack rules in-depth, feel free to click on these guides.
Should you play like the dealer?
Now, let us first see how the dealer plays. The dealer has to hit on anything up to 16 and stand on 17 or higher. Now, what if you played like that?
Many would think that this levels the playing field between the dealer and the player. But the answer is no. We, as the player always have to act first. So if we bust and then the dealer also busts, we still lose our money.
Even if both of you have busted, your money is already gone as you busted first. Simple!
Let us consider a player who knows the basic strategy. Let’s call him Mr. X to make up for the mystery in our lives. This player has a 0.5% disadvantage against the casino. Now let us consider another player Mr. Z (if you though I’d call him Mr. Y, Haha!). Mr. Z is gonna play like the dealer and so has a 5% to 6% disadvantage against the house.
If Mr. X bets $25 a hand, his expected average loss is $12 to $13 per hour on average.
And if Mr. Z bets the same $25, he will lose 10 times more! Which is $125 to $150 per hour on average.
So this strategy will not work either!
Remember that no matter how many blackjack strategy videos you watch or how many such articles you read, you will not master them unless you practice. Practice makes a man perfect. Try playing online blackjack for free and when you feel like you have learnt it, try playing for as less as $0.50. You can place such small bets at online casinos.
And as you gain more experience and become wiser, start playing at regular casinos. It is important that you enjoy the game that you play. And always play when you are in a good mood and remember that it’s just a game!